Stories of fallen heroes echoed clearly over a hushed crowd Monday morning at the Wellington Memorial Day ceremony and parade.
Gil Cole of VFW Post 6941 welcomed an area veteran with a story and heritage almost too extraordinary to believe.
“Ernest Hartman Sr. is here with me today,” said Cole. “He served our country in the Army and Air Force during World War II and gave this country 26 years of his life. His son, Ernest Harold Hartman, served six of his own years in the Air Force. Barney Hartman served four years during the Vietnam crisis. James Hartman served seven in the Air Force. Stuart Hartman, another army and Vietnam veteran put in 18 years. Captain Ed Hartman is still serving now with the Army in Iraq, just part of a 13-year military career.”
The entire Hartman family, including all relatives and in-laws, have given this country 143 years of their lives, according to Cole.
Hartman, perhaps thinking of his fellow servicemen who did not make it to old age, gathered enough strength to rise from his wheelchair and thank all in attendance for their thoughts and tributes.
“This is my 33rd year of doing this,” he said. “What beautiful weather today. We’ve done this a few times over my time here in the rain. Sometimes a downpour. Sometimes just enough to wet your whistle. We will honor our veterans and bless their souls in heaven no matter the weather. This is their day.”
During the ensuing parade, the Thrasher family of Wellington gathered by the veterans memorial to begin telling their children about the brave sacrifices that men and women have made in the U.S. military.
“Our children are getting to the age where we think they need to understand what Memorial Day is about,” said Tom Thrasher. “It’s not about having fun and cookouts. That’s all well and good but it’s about the soldiers who went out to preserve our country and way of life but didn’t come home. We also explained the difference between a soldier who dies and one who is missing in action. It’s always about a soldier who goes off to stop bad people from doing bad things.”
Thrasher and his wife Theresa’s grandfathers also served in Korea and World War II respectively.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Gil Cole of the Wellington VFW introduces Ernest Hartman Sr. The Hartman family has given 143 years of service in the U.S. military.